I’m at the UN in New York, where today world leaders pledged to finally do what it takes to end the world’s biggest infectious killer, tuberculosis.
As presidents and government ministers took to the stage, I kept thinking of all of you – the advocates across the country and around the world who made this moment possible.
Because while the headlines will talk about the new commitment from world leaders today, what they may not show is the months, years, and in some cases, decades, of work by advocates like you to get TB on the world’s agenda.
For far too long, we’ve known that the biggest problem we face with TB isn’t medical or scientific. It is political. Neglect and underinvestment have allowed this preventable, curable disease to become the world’s biggest infectious killer.
But when most policymakers weren’t paying attention to TB on their own, you set out to do something about it. You got published in the media almost 2,000 times, met with hundreds and hundreds of members of Congress, and helped give this epidemic the attention it deserves.
Since RESULTS volunteers started working on TB in the 1990s, you’ve helped secure a 300-fold increase in the U.S. budget for the global fight against TB. You’ve helped pass landmark legislation on TB. You’ve helped drive billions and billions of dollars to the Global Fund partnership, which has saved more than 27 million lives. Just in the last month, you got more than a quarter of Congress to call for even more in this fight.
RESULTS staff with World Health Organization Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus at the UN
And now at today’s meeting, world leaders are answering your call to take the next step that’s still desperately needed.
Because as I write this, we know that TB will claim more than 4,000 lives today alone. We know it’s a major cause and consequence of poverty. We know that health systems are failing to reach two out of every five people who fall sick. And we know poverty, stigma, and isolation mean it’s the most vulnerable groups who are the most likely to be left behind.
Today’s commitments are a step toward putting an end to that. They include a pledge to reach 40 million people with treatment by 2022, a goal to secure $13 billion in annual funding, new commitments from a number of countries, and exciting policy changes from the U.S. government to increase impact and support countries to reach everyone. This is all a hugely positive sign – but a meeting alone guarantees nothing. It’s about what happens starting tomorrow in terms of new funding, smarter policies, and a commitment to equity.
If we do what it takes, we could look back on this moment as a defining one, when the momentum started to shift, and things finally started to change in the fight to end TB.